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Zus & Zo (2001) – DVD Review

Zus and Zo DVD


Written & Directed by Paula van der Oes
Starring Monic Hendrickx, Anneke Blok, Sylvia Poorta, Jacob Derwig, Halina Reijn


  • Director filmography
  • Theatrical trailer

Released by: Wellspring Video.
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Ja.

My Advice: Borrow it.

As the Immortal Bard showed us in King Lear, family and property don’t mix. In Zus & Zo, we also have three sisters: Michelle (Poorta), who cares more for the strays of the world than her own husband, Wanda (Blok), a wannabe artist trying so hard to be trendy and Sonja (Hendrickx), a writer who is stuck in domestic purgatory. Their normal routine of arguing and criticism has been interrupted when they find that their baby brother Nino (Derwig) is to be married to a beautiful young girl Bo (Reijn). At first they are confused because Nino is gay and actually just ended a long-term relationship. Then they panic, because when he gets married he will inherit the idyllic family beach hotel in sunny Portugal and probably sell it. The sisters fantasize about getting the hotel and there is no way in Hell they’re losing it…even it means sacrificing their brother’s happiness. Of course, the brother has no clue what would make him happy in the first place. The wedding is going to be…interesting.

[ad#longpost]First, the good news: this movie avoids the inane zaniness that most family relationship films go with. There are no schemes that defy logic, common sense, and even physics. The bickering and silent resentment seems very real. The bad news, though, is that the characters are presented like they are from a zany comedy. Most screwball comedies, good or bad, don’t go deeply into characterization since the focus is on the gags and dialogue. For more serious pieces, the character’s backstory and motivations become important. And that’s exactly what’s lacking here.

The sheer desperation that the sisters have for this hotel is never fully explored–we get only a soft-focus montage at the beginning at the film. And we never get a good explanation why the father set up his will for the son to get the hotel when he marries. The actors don’t play the characters as caricatures and that helps, but there is only so much depth they can add to such shallowness.

All that is included in the disc is a skimpy filmography of the director and the trailer for the film. Since this was the Dutch submission for the Foreign Film Oscar, I would have been nice to have a little bit more meat on this thing: such as a commentary or a “making of” featurette. Without the film being stronger, this title just needs more to recommend it.

Zus & Zo is good for someone who wants something foreign without watching something too esoteric, but that’s about it. If you must check it out, either borrow the disc or reserve it if you’re already in with Netflix…either way it’s no money out of your pocket.

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